Fire and Ice: The Consequences of Radical Skepticism

“It’s all relative.” How many times have we heard statements like that? “Some people believe in Jesus, and that works for them, but, you know, other people don’t, and that’s OK, because it’s all relative.”

Wait a minute! “Belief” by itself is meaningless: what matters is whether the thing we believe in (or not) exists (or doesn’t). If there is something objective that we call Truth, it exists independently of our knowledge of it –  it is not a matter of perspective. Thus, if there is such a thing as Truth, we should expect consequences when we act in ways contrary to that truth.

I grew up on the East Coast, and now live on the West Coast, so I’m going to use a climactically mixed metaphor involving both a frozen pond (very Massachusetts-y) and a wildfire (characteristically Southern Californian).

Consider a pond that has frozen over in the winter. I used to go ice skating on ponds like that as a kid in Massachusetts. Is the ice safe to walk on? The importance of the answer depends on why you want to know.

Scenario 1: If you just want to go ice skating, the safety of the ice is not an urgent question. You can err on the side of caution and go sledding instead on the hill behind you. (Or, if you live in Southern California, you can go to the beach.)

Scenario 2: However, imagine that a forest fire has broken out on the wooded slope behind you. The shortest route to safety is across the frozen surface of the pond. Now it matters a great deal whether the ice is safe or not. If it is thick enough, you can easily and quickly make your way to safety. If, however, you know that the ice is too thin, you will have to proceed along the water’s edge, a longer and more dangerous route (but necessary, if you are to have any chance to save yourself.)

Scenario 3: You are seated at the pond’s edge, and a friend texts you that a major wildfire has broken out in the forest. According to this friend, the fire is burning so rapidly that it will certainly encircle you before you can walk out along the edge of the pond. The only way to safety is to cross the pond, on the ice.

We thus have three questions:

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Spiritual Warfare: Learning from a Christian Hero

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” – C.S. Lewis, Preface to The Screwtape Letters.

Let me be clear: the Enemy is real. Not a metaphor for “negativity” or some other waffle-word, but a real, conscious spiritual being who is in opposition to God and who is actively seeking to draw us away from God. In a culture that has ceased to believe this, we are even more vulnerable to assault – so it is crucial that we remember Peter’s admonition: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pt. 5:8).

In times like this, we can benefit by spending time with one of the great heroes of the Christian faith, St.

Why Naturalism Is False (And Why It Matters) Part 1

According to the naturalistic worldview, God does not exist, miracles are impossible, and the entire created world just "happened" by random chance. Many people today accept naturalism -- often unknowingly -- but in fact it is completely false. In this talk, Dr. Holly Ordway explains the difference between naturalism and theism, and shows that there is a philosophical and logical argument for theism as opposed to naturalism. This lecture (and its second part) provide a foundation of apologetic argument for the existence of God that is based on what everyone can observe in the physical world around them.

Pray without Ceasing: How???

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul gives us a bracing challenge: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Pray without ceasing! How do you even get started?

There are many ways to approach the idea of constant prayer, but one way is through the ancient spiritual discipline called praying the Daily Office. There are a number of different Offices, but the easiest ones for modern working people are Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

The Daily Office is a structured yet flexible format for prayer, offering a “backbone” of Scripture readings combined with a framework of traditional written prayers (most of which draw specifically on Scripture verses for their language), with “space” built in for extemporaneous, personal prayer. By making choices about what to include and what to skip, each individual can personalize the Daily Office to fit different preferences and amounts of time, from 15 minutes to... however long you want to pray!

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Wrestling with Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer sounds restful. Instead of spending all my prayer time talking to God, why not just listen once in a while – resting in the presence of God and waiting on Him? My pastor explained that contemplative prayer involved settling down in silence, just focusing on God, and repeating a phrase like "Lord, have mercy" or the name of Jesus to keep one's attention on Him. I recognized that it was exactly the sort of thing I needed to do, and hey! it sounded easy.

It’s not.

Over the past year, as I’ve experimented with contemplative prayer, I’ve discovered that it is, in fact, really hard.

Contemplative prayer feels like gripping tightly onto a rope when there are little hands tugging at my clothes to pull me away.

Beauty Points to Truth

One of the most memorable lines in English poetry appears in John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which the poet has his imagined Grecian vase speak directly to the reader, saying “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

That vase was on to something.

Beauty is not just... well, nice to look at. It’s important in a larger sense, because it points toward truth.

I live in Southern California, and my church, St. Michael’s by-the-Sea is named quite literally: you can see the Pacific Ocean from the church campus.

One particular morning I arrived at church as usual, pulled into the parking lot, got out, grabbed my purse, slammed the door shut, all on automatic pilot.

The Cross and the Tomb: Easter

“Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom 6:8). We have died with Christ; we have suffered the agony of our sin that He carried for us on the cross; we have failed Him, fled from Him, come back in shame and sorrow to kneel beside His tomb.

And then – into the darkness of Holy Saturday shines the light of Easter. An empty tomb. Shock, fear, awe, joy. “He is not here, for he has risen” (Mt 28:6).

Now, only now, can we raise our voices in praise with Paul: “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Rom 6:9). Christ is risen – not a legend, not a hope, not a spirit, but the Son of God in new, strangely transformed life, the firstfruit of the new creation.

The Cross and the Tomb: Holy Saturday

Jesus is dead. Say it again: Our Lord is a lifeless body, wept over by a few women, his friends having scattered. Darkness lies over the land. We can imagine the disciples, on that terrible Saturday, puzzling over what seemed to be shattered hopes. “We had hoped,” Cleopas would say a day later on the road to Emmaus, “that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). Is this what the vindication of Israel looks like? Is this what the Kingdom of God looks like? Or is it what it seems to be – shame, death, defeat?

What is there to do? Perhaps only to give up. Yet not everyone had abandoned Him. In the waning hours of Friday, a few stayed faithful, even if it was a faith without hope. Joseph of Arimathea, a man “looking for the kingdom of God,” did what he could, even if it was pathetically little.

The Cross and the Tomb: Good Friday

Christ is risen! On Easter, we raise our voices in praise and thanksgiving, celebrating the victory won for us by Our Lord, our new life made possible in His new life.  

And rightly we do celebrate – but before we do, wait a moment. Paul writes in Romans that “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom 6:5 ESV). How easy it is to jump ahead, in our eagerness to be united with Our Lord in a resurrection like His own mighty resurrection. Stop for a moment. Stop and think on Paul’s words: “if we have been united with him in a death like his.” A death like Jesus’ death. What does that mean?

We cannot come to new life without death. We cannot find the Risen Lord without the Cross; we cannot reach Easter any way except through the agony of Good Friday and the emptiness of Holy Saturday.

What Is Prayer? (2): God Is Not a Vending Machine

A glance at the Christian Inspiration shelves in a bookstore will reveal numerous books touting the power of prayer – to heal, to comfort, to inspire, to get what we want. We should tread carefully here. It is true that our Lord tells us to pray for “our daily bread”: we are indeed called to live in constant humble reliance on our heavenly Father, who hears us and responds to our prayers.

However, we must not fall into the error of thinking of God as a cosmic vending machine: insert prayer, receive desired outcome. That way lies madness. It is a distortion of God, cutting Him down to a size and shape that we find convenient.

Prayer is communication with our heavenly Father, through His Son our Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Dr. Holly Ordway is a professor of composition and literature. She speaks and writes regularly on literature, especially fantasy literature and poetry, and literary apologetics.